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Sobering...An MBA Doesn't Mean Job Security

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Sobering...An MBA Doesn't Mean Job Security [#permalink] New post 26 Jan 2009, 07:21
From today's WSJ. Although, it's only one person's story. Just remember an MBA affords no guarantees - always be concious of that fact, especially in this environment.

http://blogs.wsj.com/laidoff/2009/01/26/nowadays-an-mba-doesnt-equal-job-security/

Like many M.B.A.s, I am one of the millions who returned to school after a dozen years climbing the corporate ladder with only a bachelor’s degree. I thought my M.B.A. would give me an edge. I thought the combination of the degree and my years of workplace success would be a sort of Holy Grail for job security and advancement. Now I wonder if I was just naive–or if the workplace has truly changed.

From my current vantage point, it seems there has been a shift. The level of job security an M.B.A. degree provides has diminished. Whether this is the new status quo or if it is just a temporary, recession-driven change, is unclear.

Given that in tough economic times college enrollments typically swell, I am concerned about the commoditization of the M.B.A. I worry that what is considered an advanced degree today may be considered an entry-level requirement tomorrow. My degree was a personal achievement and an investment. Like any investor, I want a positive ROI.

A few days ago, I found myself applying for a job that required less education and less management experience than what I bring to the table. It wasn’t the first time since my lay off that I applied for such a job. And while I don’t plan to make it a common practice, the competition in today’s job market is so intense that exceeding job requirements–-not just meeting them–is the new norm.

It’s frustrating to think that I am using my degree just to secure a job that doesn’t require it. For me, returning to school was a dream fulfilled. It was the personal and professional challenge I desired. I appreciated it more the second time around. My concern about the long-term value of my degree and the stability it can provide is real. Had I returned to school solely to attain job security, I would be disappointed. But for me, this was not the case.

I returned to school partly for the personal satisfaction. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t change a thing about the choices I have made even knowing I’d be laid off. If I were 10 years younger or had I completed my M.B.A. directly out of undergrad, I might think otherwise.

Ultimately, I know my education will be key in landing my next job, but it didn’t prevent me from losing my last one. And it doesn’t carry any guarantees about the job after that. Given the growing number of intelligent, experienced workers being laid off everyday, I can’t help but wonder, what besides education and experience is needed to increase job security in today’s workplace?
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Re: Sobering...An MBA Doesn't Mean Job Security [#permalink] New post 26 Jan 2009, 07:25
Interesting. Thanks for sharing. I'm curious about this guy's story - where he went to school and what he did preMBA?

cheers.
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Re: Sobering...An MBA Doesn't Mean Job Security [#permalink] New post 26 Jan 2009, 07:37
http://blogs.wsj.com/laidoff/2009/01/26 ... od=blogmod

There isn't a link to Linkedin site in the article..

Oh well, I am gonna be nonchalant

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Re: Sobering...An MBA Doesn't Mean Job Security [#permalink] New post 26 Jan 2009, 08:22
There are several other bloggers telling similar stories, it has been a centerpiece of the WSJ Blogs the past few months:

http://blogs.wsj.com/laidoff/

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Re: Sobering...An MBA Doesn't Mean Job Security [#permalink] New post 26 Jan 2009, 09:51
I personally never thought of my MBA as job security. I know that many companies don't value MBAs or know what to do with MBAs. And especially in this economic environment, you can't expect the jobs you may have expected 10 years ago. It's up to you to make the best of it - to choose the right jobs, employers, and industries where your degree will be valued - the best that you can.

Of course you can't always predict what the future is going to bring, but people that think that if they land a spot in a top 10 school that they are going to have the best career because of it will wake up to a harsh reality the next few years.

But the educational value is worth it in my opinion. It will just be a long time for most of us to see a significant ROI.
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Re: Sobering...An MBA Doesn't Mean Job Security [#permalink] New post 26 Jan 2009, 11:04
deleted irrelevant posts. please keep your comments relevant to the topic. what do you think about doing an MBA in this environment?

also, fair use is 500 words or less. use links to the original source and put relevant info. in quotes.

a little inconvenience will help us all in the long run. :)
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Re: Sobering...An MBA Doesn't Mean Job Security [#permalink] New post 26 Jan 2009, 11:17
LOL - Every couple of months, we get this thread back on how an MBA is not everything. How someone went back to doing their old job, or how the starting salaries didnt match up, or how there is no job security, or how an MBA does not prepare you for the business world, or how ethically wrong MBAs are..blah blah.

Invariably this sets off a chain reaction of people arguing..and how some feel that the initial sample is biased (such as in this case) vs people arguing that the MBA is not worth the $$$.

The truth I feel, like in most cases, is somewhere in the middle. If you don't succeed - you can't BLAME having an MBA for it: which is what this author seems to be doing. Walking into an business school feeling your entire life and career is set in stone is probably the most foolish thing you could do - and one that this lady did. She over-estimated the worth of an MBA and is now paying the price for it...and now that things didnt work out for her, is blaming the degree for it?\

The most weird sentence in her blog is:

"Ultimately, I know my education will be key in landing my next job, but it didn’t prevent me from losing my last one. "

OF COURSE NOT! Since when did education become a tool to firmly lock your position in place..there is no degree that can do that. Education can only open doors for you, not keep them open!

And as for her question: I can’t help but wonder, what besides education and experience is needed to increase job security in today’s workplace?

Answer: Performance. There isn't anything else that's in your hands!...or being the CEO's kid maybe :)

Take it for what it's worth I guess..
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Re: Sobering...An MBA Doesn't Mean Job Security [#permalink] New post 26 Jan 2009, 15:09
I'm not getting an MBA for job security. I'm getting one to better myself, to learn more about business, increase my network, gain valuable skills, transition into a new line of work. I'm in it for the benefits and experiences, the people. Nothing is certain in life, especially a job, whether you are a high school graduate, have your BA or an MBA. I think the only truly secure job is Pope.

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Re: Sobering...An MBA Doesn't Mean Job Security [#permalink] New post 26 Jan 2009, 16:02
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The inference I got from the article is that the author felt the MBA *used* to provide job security.

And nothing could be further from the truth.

The notion of true job security is a relic of the 1980s and before. Not to sound too cliche, but we live in a very different world. There's really no such thing as job security in virtually any career now.

If you work in a for-profit business, you are always one bad fiscal year (or even calendar quarter) away from losing your job - from the entry level grunt all the way up to the CEO. There was a recent study of CEO turnover, and how it has gone from 20 years (i.e. forever) before 1970s, to around 10 years in the 1980s/90s, to less than 5 years today.

If you have a technical position especially in software/hardware, the more experienced you are the more you are at risk of being replaced by the kid who just got out of their MS program (I totally understand why so many engineers want out after 5-10 years; it's hard to stay in the game when they can eventually replace you with some fresh grad who is cheaper and more up to date on the latest stuff - I mean, the world's most experienced FORTRAN or COBOL expert isn't exactly a hot commodity).

If you work in government, you are at the mercy of cutbacks.

If you have a union job, the union can't really help you if the company you work for needs to really scale back.

If you work as an attorney, you also risk getting axed if you happen to work in a practice that sees its billable hours dwindle with the economy.

We are simply not shielded from any economic cycle.

The sooner people can come to terms with the reality that there is no such thing as job security no matter what you do, the better you'll be able to ride out any cycle.

Having said that, there's a bright side to this. Because there's no job security and by extension no "life long career" anymore, our working lives are no longer linear. Linear is boring. We have the potential to reinvent ourselves every 10-15 years or so, which can be an amazing thing. It's certainly scary to start over, but once you've done it your first time it becomes easier to handle emotionally, mentally and financially the second, third or even fourth time. In prior generations, most people's life's work could be summed up as "I started as an XYZ at 22, then worked my way up until 65." You basically just did one thing (or maybe two). With this generation going forward, you can look back on your life at 80 and say you've lived many lives in that period - you've been an engineer, an entrepreneur, a preacher, a writer, and an elected official. That's really an amazing thing when you think about it. Even if you didn't necessarily succeed in all those roles or time periods, it was still a far more interesting legacy and contribution to the world at large than "I worked as XYZ at 22 and coasted until 65".

And an MBA can be valuable in that equation. Because it's a generalist degree, you can use it to open doors to different industries. No matter how specialized your industry experience is, you always have that generalist foundation and perspective. If anything, the learning experience in an MBA program de-mystifies business. It makes stuff like "how do I figure out how to price this thing I'm selling?" or "how do I set up a company?" or "how do I figure out whether this business makes financial sense" from something mysterious and nebulous, to something that is tangible and specific. A lot of people who don't have MBAs are scared of this - they are afraid to look at a balance sheet. They feel that marketing is some mysterious crystal ball gazing. They are intimidated by the jargon, the analysis, and the dynamics.

As such, an MBA really teaches you how to look at virtually any situation from a business context which can be invaluable. For example, if you ended up working at say, Microsoft for 10 years before getting laid off, the generalist foundation you have from your MBA program (even if it was an eternity ago) can give you the confidence to say, "you know what, I've always wanted to work in the wine business" and to figure out how to do that. It's not that the "credential" itself that will open the doors, but the education itself that will even make it possible in your own mind. Oftentimes, it's not that the doors are closed, but that we often don't give ourselves permission to say "I can do it". The experience and education of an MBA can help in again de-mystifying business - that "business is business no matter what the industry" and that what you are doing is simply applying that perspective to *specific* wrinkles on that concept.

So no, the credential or even the education itself can't give you job security, but it can be a great asset in helping you start over in another industry or even job function (or even if you decide to do something non-business related for say 10-15 years). And the ability to reinvent one's self is probably the most important thing (even more important than networking in my view) you can have. Because it's practically a guarantee that virtually every one of you will have at least 2-5 careers between now and 70 -- and oftentimes careers that have nothing to do with one another (and some of which may have nothing to do with business). And the timing or nature of "starting over" may not be of our choosing. We will get laid off maybe even multiple times. We will hit a plateau in our current career sooner than we think. Our jobs will become obsolete. Our industry may become obsolete. It part of the rhythm of life now. But it can be a blessing too because for every door that slams in your face, there are other doors that can open if you're willing to look beyond the hallway you're in and maybe across the street in the other building.

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Re: Sobering...An MBA Doesn't Mean Job Security [#permalink] New post 26 Jan 2009, 21:43
AlexMBAApply wrote:
As such, an MBA really teaches you how to look at virtually any situation from a business context which can be invaluable. For example, if you ended up working at say, Microsoft for 10 years before getting laid off, the generalist foundation you have from your MBA program (even if it was an eternity ago) can give you the confidence to say, "you know what, I've always wanted to work in the wine business" and to figure out how to do that. It's not that the "credential" itself that will open the doors, but the education itself that will even make it possible in your own mind. Oftentimes, it's not that the doors are closed, but that we often don't give ourselves permission to say "I can do it". The experience and education of an MBA can help in again de-mystifying business - that "business is business no matter what the industry" and that what you are doing is simply applying that perspective to *specific* wrinkles on that concept.


This is what I am really seeking in an MBA. Alex thanks for this great information. Now I want to ask, do you feel that most business schools prepare students in this manner or is it more of a individual effort? Or is it more the top 10 or 20 schools?

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Re: Sobering...An MBA Doesn't Mean Job Security [#permalink] New post 26 Jan 2009, 23:33
It's not what b-school can do for you, but what you can do with it. The former is a passive mentality (what can THEY provide? What can it GIVE me?). The latter is active (how you hope to use what you learned and experienced).

No matter what school you go to, you get what you put in.

B-school is like a car. It can't do the driving for you, nor can it tell you where to go or how to drive.

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Re: Sobering...An MBA Doesn't Mean Job Security [#permalink] New post 27 Jan 2009, 16:47
AlexMBAApply wrote:
It's not what b-school can do for you, but what you can do with it. The former is a passive mentality (what can THEY provide? What can it GIVE me?). The latter is active (how you hope to use what you learned and experienced).

No matter what school you go to, you get what you put in.

B-school is like a car. It can't do the driving for you, nor can it tell you where to go or how to drive.


Right, but then would a top school be a grade A car and my local school be a grade D car? I understand that it is what you put in, but if at the end of the day, you put in a lot yet get the same thing you would at a local school with low cost, then why would anyone aim for a top school with a high price tag?
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Re: Sobering...An MBA Doesn't Mean Job Security [#permalink] New post 27 Jan 2009, 16:52
89nk wrote:
AlexMBAApply wrote:
It's not what b-school can do for you, but what you can do with it. The former is a passive mentality (what can THEY provide? What can it GIVE me?). The latter is active (how you hope to use what you learned and experienced).

No matter what school you go to, you get what you put in.

B-school is like a car. It can't do the driving for you, nor can it tell you where to go or how to drive.


Right, but then would a top school be a grade A car and my local school be a grade D car? I understand that it is what you put in, but if at the end of the day, you put in a lot yet get the same thing you would at a local school with low cost, then why would anyone aim for a top school with a high price tag?


Top schools are easier to drive and can probably get you there faster. Lesser ranked schools will provide you the opportunity to get to Point B, but it may be a bit harder (manual transmission vs. automatic) and slower (Ford Festiva vs. Porsche)

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Re: Sobering...An MBA Doesn't Mean Job Security [#permalink] New post 27 Jan 2009, 18:09
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Omne wrote:
89nk wrote:
AlexMBAApply wrote:
It's not what b-school can do for you, but what you can do with it. The former is a passive mentality (what can THEY provide? What can it GIVE me?). The latter is active (how you hope to use what you learned and experienced).

No matter what school you go to, you get what you put in.

B-school is like a car. It can't do the driving for you, nor can it tell you where to go or how to drive.


Right, but then would a top school be a grade A car and my local school be a grade D car? I understand that it is what you put in, but if at the end of the day, you put in a lot yet get the same thing you would at a local school with low cost, then why would anyone aim for a top school with a high price tag?


Top schools are easier to drive and can probably get you there faster. Lesser ranked schools will provide you the opportunity to get to Point B, but it may be a bit harder (manual transmission vs. automatic) and slower (Ford Festiva vs. Porsche)


That's been my point all along. It's not that school brands are irrelevant, but that applicants and current students tend to overestimate its importance in how your career plays out. Folks will pay lip service to "the MBA isn't a golden key or a ticket to riches" but what they spend so much time talking about (rankings, "brand value", etc.) reveals that they still believe that a prestigious name will somehow be the glass slipper in their Cinderella story - that it will magically make them more attractive to the business world at large, that it will magically allow them to coast (no one will ever admit that, but I can guarantee some people do feel this way even if they won't openly admit it), and so forth.

And then you get the undertone of a "top school or bust" mentality with some people who could be more realistic. Or that by even the thought of applying to a school that isn't "prestigious" makes them fearful of having to face their deep seeded insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. As if they are doomed if they don't have the "advantage" of some blue chip name on their resume.

Yes, apply to the best school you can, but don't feel like you're a loser if you can't afford the Porsche and can only get a Corolla.

In some (or many?) cases, the big obstacle isn't a *lack* of a brand name on the resume - it's checking your insecurity masquerading as pride and ego at the door.

While it's certainly easier to reach your goals if you are born in the right circumstance or having gone to the right schools, there's also a good number who don't have those advantages and still succeed.

Those who don't have the advantages simply have to work harder. And if you're not prepared to bust your ass regardless, then whatever advantage you have would be a waste anyhow.

Put it this way. If you can get into an HBS, Wharton, Kellogg, Stanford, etc. then more power to you. Great. Consider it a privilege.

But if you can't or someone says it's out of your league, it doesn't make you any less of a person or less successful (and let's face it, a good number of the b-school types that talk about "successful" really mean "rich") - although I'm sure with the obsession with prestige that is really what the real inference is about - that school rankings are a proxy for the worth of a person. We all know that isn't true, but it's a convenient way to make the world simpler than it is and make it easier to deal with one's own inferiority complex with "the world at large".

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Re: Sobering...An MBA Doesn't Mean Job Security [#permalink] New post 27 Jan 2009, 20:02
Great post Alex, you are an outstanding addition to the club. At the end of the day the MBA is a means to an end. Its not an end in it self. You still have to work toward whatever end you want to achieve.
Re: Sobering...An MBA Doesn't Mean Job Security   [#permalink] 27 Jan 2009, 20:02
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